United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
O' GRADY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Joyner, Sr., a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a
civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging violation of his constitutional rights in connection
with motor vehicle convictions in Isle of Wight County.
Plaintiff has neither paid the applicable filing fee nor
applied to proceed in forma pauperis in this action.
After reviewing plaintiffs complaint, the claims against the
defendants must be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(b) for failure to state a claim.
allegations are vague. He alleges without additional detail
that he was deprived of his "constitution [sic] right
under color of any state law statute ordinance regulation
custom or usage of any right privilege or immunity secured by
the Constitution of the United States ...." He asserts
that the rights which were violated were the Fifth Amendment,
the "Eighth Amendment excessive bail no bond, " and
the Fourteenth Amendment, and he asks to proceed under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act. Attached as an exhibit to the
complaint is a Compliance Summary addressed to the plaintiff
from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles that lists
multiple motor vehicle convictions in both the Circuit Court
of Isle of Wight County and the Isle of Wight County District
Court. Beside the list of convictions plaintiff has written
"vacate" and "fraud." The named
defendants are Judges Carl E. Easton, Jr. and Robert H.
Sandwich, "Commonwealth Attorney now Judge [of] Isle of
Wight" Linwood Wayne Fanner, and plaintiffs
court-appointed counsel Barrett R. Richardson. Plaintiff
includes no prayer for relief.
reviewing a complaint pursuant to § 1915A, a court must
dismiss a prisoner complaint that is frivolous, malicious, or
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or
seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from
such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). Whether a complaint
states a claim upon which relief can be granted is determined
by "the familiar standard for a motion to dismiss under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)." Sumner v. Tucker. 9
F.Supp.2d 641, 642 (E.D. Va. 1998). Thus, the alleged facts
are presumed true, and the complaint should be dismissed only
when "it is clear that no relief could be granted under
any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the
allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding.
467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). To survive a 12(b)(6) motion, "a
complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as
true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on
its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. __,
__, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twomblv. 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). "A
claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged." Id. However, "[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice" to meet this
standard, id., and a plaintiffs "[f] actual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level...". Twomblv. 550 U.S. at 55.
Moreover, a court "is not bound to accept as true a
legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation."
IqbaL 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1950.
readily apparent that plaintiffs complaint at present states
no substantive claim upon which relief can be granted. Under
other circumstances, he would be allowed an opportunity to
particularize and amend his allegations in deference to his
pro se status. Such a step is not warranted here, however,
because none of the named defendants can be liable to
plaintiff under § 1983.
appears that plaintiff intends to sue defendant Linwood Wayne
Farmer for actions Farmer took as a Commonwealth Attorney.
However, state prosecutors are absolutely immune from suit
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Imbler v. Pachtman. 424
U.S. 409, 427 (1976). Section 1983 provides:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance,
regulation, custom, or usage, of any State ... subjects, or
causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or
other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the
deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured
by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party
injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper
proceeding for redress
42 U.S.C. § 1983. A state prosecuting attorney acting
within the scope of his or her duties in initiating and
pursuing a criminal prosecution is not amenable to suit under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 for those actions because of public
policy considerations. Imbler. 424 U.S. at 410, 427.
"[T]he public interest in forthright enforcement of the
criminal law is best served when a state's attorney can
freely decide when to prosecute, uninfluenced by the
potential burden of retaliatory suits." Weathers v.
Ebert. 505 F.2d 514, 515 (4th Cir. 1974). As the actions
or omissions of Farmer apparently were conducted in the
course of a criminal prosecution against plaintiff, he enjoys
absolute immunity from this § 1983 suit.
plaintiff can state no claim against defense counsel
Richardson, because it is well established in § 1983
jurisprudence that "[d]efense attorneys do not act
'under color of state law and are, therefore, not
amenable to suit under § 1983, whether privately
retained, appointed by the state, or employed as public
defenders." Ward v. Ghee. 8 F.3d 823 (4th Cir.
Oct. 13, 1993) (table; available at 1993 WL 410357)
(citations omitted). Here, then, attorney Richardson cannot
be sued under §1983 for actions he took during his
representation of the plaintiff.
plaintiffs claims against Judges Easton and Sandwich, as well
as any claim against defendant Farmer in his judicial
capacity, it is well settled that judges are absolutely
immune for suits for damages arising out of their judicial
acts. Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967). While it
previously was held that judicial immunity did not bar claims
for declaratory or injunctive relief in actions brought
pursuant to §1983, Pulliam v. Allen. 466 U.S.
522, 541-42 (1984), Congress amended §1983 in 1996 to
overrule Pulliam. and it is now established that a
judge is immune from suit for both money damages and
injunctive relief in a § 1983 action. Bute v.
Economou. 438 U.S. 478 (1978). Here, then, regardless of
the nature ...